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Managing all your passwords for different accounts can be surprisingly complicated. You need to be able to create, store, and access strong passwords for all your accounts on every device you use.

Furthermore, each password must be unique, making it nearly impossible to remember each on your own. More people are now using password managers to more easily keep track of passwords without putting their accounts at risk.

How Password Managers Work

Every application is different, but password managers generally work similarly, making saving passwords in a private vault easy. While some password managers support offline storage, most platforms keep information saved in the cloud so you can access it seamlessly on different devices.

Password managers usually rely on a master password that secures all the passwords for different accounts. As long as you remember your master password, you can log in on any device and use passwords as needed.

Some password managers also offer additional features, such as cloud storage and saving text and other files. You may also be able to securely share passwords with other users without sending the password through an unsecured channel like email or SMS.

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Password Manager Features That Keep You Safe

If you aren’t using a dedicated password manager, your passwords might be saved elsewhere. For example, many people keep their passwords stored on a local device, in a cloud-based account (such as iCloud), or their web browser.

With that in mind, you may hesitate to store your information elsewhere. Putting them in a new location could give hackers even more opportunities to crack your passwords and gain unauthorized access to your accounts.

However, a reliable password manager is one of the best places to store passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Let’s review some of the key security features of the top password managers available.

  • Encryption for important data: Keeping your passwords safe starts with encryption. This is the process of encoding sensitive data so that it can’t be accessed by anyone other than the rightful owner. Today, most password managers rely on industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption. They may offer zero-knowledge security policies
  • Offline storage for added security: Encryption is the best way to secure sensitive information transmitted over the internet. Still, it’s even more effective to avoid putting that data online in the first place. Some password managers are limited to cloud storage. While that offers decent security, offline storage is a solid alternative for those who want to minimize their potential weaknesses. NordPass, for example, provides an offline mode that gives you access to your vault’s contents. The main drawback of offline storage is that it prevents you from keeping data consistent. You will need to use cloud storage to sync passwords across different devices.
  • Two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication (2FA) is another critical security feature for most modern password managers. After enabling 2FA, you’ll have to authorize logins to allow access. This typically goes through an authenticator app, which uses push notifications to authenticate new access attempts. The name “two-factor authentication” is based on the fact that authentication acts as a second “factor” for login. Usually, the password is the first factor. 2FA ensures a second element or factor secures accounts.
  • Secure password sharing: Sharing passwords gives hackers another way to access your accounts. When you send a password or other sensitive data through a channel like SMS or email, you make it easier for people to access that information. Password managers mitigate this risk by giving you a safer way to share passwords. Instead of sending the password through plain text, you can share it in a secure form. These tools generally encrypt shared passwords so they aren’t vulnerable in transit.
  • Password generators and analyzers: Along with storing your existing passwords, most password managers offer a tool to produce new passwords. You may be able to set specific parameters so the generated passwords work with the requirements of each website. Some generators are also capable of generating unique passphrases along with conventional passwords. Your password manager should also have a password analyzer to tell you if your passwords are too weak. After signing up for a new password manager, one of your first steps should be to evaluate your existing passwords and identify the ones you need to update.
  • Dark web monitoring: Data breaches are a critical security risk many users aren’t aware of. Providers need to store certain information to tell when you enter the right password. If that information is exposed in a data breach, hackers could use it to access your password. A strong password won’t do much to prevent data breaches, which can be especially problematic for people who use one password for multiple accounts. Once a hacker gets that password, they can log into any website if the same password secures the account. Fortunately, dark web monitoring is now available from many password managers and other cybersecurity providers. This service will monitor the dark web and let you know if any of your passwords are exposed. Rapidly identifying the breach and changing your password is the best way to minimize the risk of hackers accessing your account.

Common Password Mistakes To Avoid

Unfortunately, not everyone takes password and online security seriously, making them easy targets for identity theft and other hazards. Here are some common password mistakes to avoid:

  • Using repetitive or obvious sequences like 123 or qwerty
  • Including personal information such as the names of pets or children
  • Utilizing the same password on multiple websites or apps
  • Only putting numbers and special characters at the end of passwords
  • Thinking a password is secure simply because it meets the website requirements
  • Writing passwords down in an unsafe location (physical or digital)

A password manager won’t necessarily address all of your cybersecurity concerns. You must do more than simply install a password manager to secure your information. Still, password managers are a key part of cybersecurity for most people who can’t remember their passwords independently.

Look for a password manager that meets your needs in terms of functionality, ease of use, and overall value. Our list of the best password managers of 2024 is a great place to start your search.


Frequently Asked Questions About Password Managers

  • Does cost affect a password manager’s performance?

    While you can get a solid password manager for free, premium subscriptions include more features and capabilities. Whether it’s worth paying a little extra depends on what you’re looking for in a password manager.

    Bitwarden, for example, offers a surprisingly robust free option with core password manager features and access on unlimited devices. Premium plans come with emergency access, priority support, file storage, and other extra features. A more expensive service may have more of the features you need.

  • What if your password manager gets hacked?

    Password managers are generally secure, but you’ll be in trouble if someone can gain access to your account. Since password managers put all of your login credentials in one place, your password manager account is more valuable to hackers than any of your other individual accounts.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to stop your password manager from being breached by threat actors. If that happens, it’s best to find a new password manager and change all your existing passwords as soon as possible.

  • What are some notable password manager hacks?

    • The Zoho password manager was hacked in 2021, leading to roughly 11,000 servers being infected with malware. The hackers scanned over 300 organizations and hacked into at least nine companies.
    • In 2022, LastPass was hacked. An unknown threat actor accessed a cloud-based storage environment, but no customer data was accessed. The provider has had breaches in the past as well.
    • In 2017, another Google Project Zero analyst found that Keeper Password Manager was “allowing any website to steal any password.” Keeper responded by fixing the problem within 48 hours, but the analyst also mentioned that the issue had popped up in earlier versions of Keeper.
  • What happens if you forget a master password?

    The master password is the most important element of your password manager account security, so it’s critical to develop a strong, unique password that is extremely difficult to guess. This also makes it easy to forget, especially since your master password won’t be stored as an entry within the password manager.

    Providers approach account recovery differently. If you have already set up emergency access in your account, you may be able to recover the account. The administrator may be able to reset passwords without requiring the master password.

    Certain providers also support email and other basic account recovery methods. However, many password managers rely on zero-knowledge security policies, making account recovery more difficult than other digital accounts. Read about each provider’s recovery policies before making a final decision.

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About The Password Manager, Gunnar Kallstrom:

Kallstrom, The Password Manager, is a Cyber Team Lead for a Department of Defense (DOD) contracting company in Huntsville, Alabama, and has worked as a Computer Network Defense (CND) Cyber Analyst. An author and content creator for a cybersecurity academy, Kallstrom spent nearly 15 years in the Army as a musician before entering the cybersecurity field.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Thomas Edison State University and a master’s in organizational development and leadership from the University of the Incarnate Word.

Kallstrom has completed several Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) courses, including Security+, Network+, A+ Core 1, and A+ Core 2. He earned a CompTIA Security+ Certification. Additionally, he has completed the Cyber Warrior Academy program with more than 800 hours of hands-on, intensive, and lab-driven technical training in cybersecurity methods and procedures.

Passionate about all things cyber, Kallstrom was a speaker on a panel at the 2022 InfoSec World conference, giving a talk entitled “Hacking into a Cyber Career – True Stories.” Kallstrom is also a mentor to entry-level cybersecurity candidates seeking to break into the field. When he’s not working, he still enjoys playing guitar and fishing (not phishing).